Amid reports of Indians fighting alongside ISIS, Arif Ejaz Majeed, one of the four young men from Kalyan who had gone missing during a pilgrimage to Iraq, is said to have been killed in a bomb blast.
Although Maharashtra ATS and Thane police have no official confirmation of his death, Arif's family performed 'Janaza-e-gayabana' (prayers for the departed soul in absence of the body) yesterday, a family friend Ateek Khan told PTI.
According to reports, Shaheen Tanki, who along with Arif, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh and Aman Naim Tandel, had disappeared during a trip to Iraq in May, called his family on Tuesday and informed them about his death. The Tankis then disclosed the news of Arif's death to his family.
Thane police said till they receive "official confirmation" about the death of Arif, an engineering student, they would continue to treat the matter as a "missing case".
However, an officer in Maharashtra ATS, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "There is no reason to disbelieve the information about Arif's death in a bomb blast in Iraq. Intelligence agnecies have also suggested that Arif has died."
A neighbour of Arif shared a web link with a PTI reporter which claimed he had participated in the action at Mosul Dam and was "martyred". "May Allah accept his martyrdom," the post, which also had the photograph of Arif carrying a Kalashnikov, said.
The US military had earlier this month mounted airstrikes on ISIS fighters in the vicinity of Irbil and Mosul Dam to back Iraqi security forces fighting the Sunni militia who have captured vast swathes in Iraq and Syria.
The post also claimed Arif had married a Palestinian girl from Gaza during his stay in Iraq.
In July, Arif's father Ejaz Majeed had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi and handed over a memorandum reportedly seeking action those who had radicalised his son and persuaded him to join the jihadists.
Maharashtra ATS chief Himanshu Roy said, "We are closely monitoring the situation."
SB Jadhav, Deputy Police Commissioner (Thane), under whose jurisdiction Kalyan is located, said they do not have any "independent confirmation" about Arif's death. "We are reading in the newspapers about Arif's death but we do not have any independent confirmation. We will inquire into the matter with Arif's family," Jadhav said.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said, "We have been in touch with Maharashtra ATS with regard to the four boys from Kalyan who have gone missing. However, we have no inputs to suggest Arif has been killed."
According to the ATS, the four men flew to Baghdad on May 23 as part of a group of 22 pilgrims to visit religious shrines in Iraq. The next day, Arif had called his family from Baghdad and apologised for having left without informing them.
Upon returning to India, other pilgrims had told the police that, Arif, Fahad, Aman and Saheen had hired a taxi to Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad which had emerged as the epicentre of Iraq's deadly insurgency.